Lacan: The Essential Writings Summary
The Essential Writings are the published theories and explanations of Jacques Lacan, mostly revolving around his Freudian themes, including what he called the mirror stage, a period of time during developmental psychology during which a small child learns to self-perceive, causing the development of an ego that is the construct of imagination, not the byproduct of natural, unguided processes. The effect is that adults, from Lacan's perspective, are stuck navigating the world with a sense of self that is primarily an illusion, constructed during the time when they were a child mimicking others' behavior and demeanor.
Another major feature of these writings is the return to Freudianism. Many of Freud's theories were reconstructed by Lacan, making Lacan's views something of a variation on a theme of Freud's. That just means that many elements of their worldview are strikingly similar, but even the ideas they agree on, they disagree on still, because they're each interpreting the mind through their perspectives. Although many scholars found issues with Lacan's adoption of Freudian ideas, but a reader who likes Carl Jung or perhaps the famous developmental psychologist, Piaget, will likely resonate with Lacan's point of view.
Here's the basic idea of the mirror stage, the major contribution of these writings: Lacan believes that when a young child, perhaps even an infant, looks into a mirror, they find themselves tasked to understand their own reflection, and once they know what they look like, there starts to exist in their mind an ego that is a constructed, specular image of the real child based on their physical appearance.
In other words, they imagine a version of their self which aids them in the speculative business of decision making, prioritizing, and even motor skills and physical behavior. Basically, Lacan's writings explore this question: What is the effect of reality on the development of the mind? My biggest complaint, though, was that there was too much focus on the West and when the editor did use authors from the East The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism.
Zhuangzi: The Essential Writings
This clear and comprehensive anthology, culled from the vast corpus of Christian mystical literature by the renowned theologian and historian Bernard McGinn, presents nearly one hundred selections, from the writings of Origen of Alexandria in the third century to the work of twentieth-century mystics such as Thomas Merton. Uniquely organized by subject rather than by author, The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism explores how human life is transformed through the search for direct contact with God.
Part one examines the preparation for encountering God through biblical interpretation and prayer; the second part focuses on the mystics' actual encounters with God; and part three addresses the implications of the mystical life, showing how mystics have been received over time, and how they practice their faith through private contemplation and public actions.
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In addition to his illuminating Introduction, Bernard McGinn provides accessible headnotes for each section, as well as numerous biographical sketches and a selected bibliography. This is an anthology which deserves to be read not only by those who study Christian history and theology, but by believers who long to deepen their own lives of prayer and service. McGinn offers helpful introductions to each thematic section, author and entry, as well as a brief critical bibliography on mysticism.
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Published in the Modern Library Classic series, this is a great value.
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